Tag Archive | panic

Managing Anxiety from PTSD

So it has come to my awareness that my anxiety and fears have reached epic proportions. I was actually unaware of some of my fears because of how isolated I keep myself, and how much I keep to the same routines, and dare I say rituals. I’m going to ask my counselor if this is a form of agoraphobia, but whatever we want to call it, this is what she has asked me to do for homework to start working on the fears. She wants me to break down the fears into categories as follows: What I can do with little fear or distress, what gives me some level of fear, and what is so much fear I avoid doing the item completely. I’ve started my list below. Interestly enough, compiling this list was quite distressing, as I imagined all of these situations, and also as I realized how many I do in fact fear. How did I let this happen? I didn’t let it. PTSD just did it to me, slowly, day by day, changing my life into what it is now. I’m ready to slowly change it back.

 

Situations with no or very little distress:

Situations where I feel in control, the duration is limited, I have a plan, a shopping list, know what to say or do.

  • Shopping at known stores: It is a super short list: my grocery store (0) in town, my pharmacy in town(10), Dollar Store in town(10), 2 walmarts(25) and 1 kmart just outside of town(25). I’ll go to Sears(35) at the mall if Hubby goes too and we enter through Sears, not the mall entrance.
  • Ordering takeout on phone or drive thru, picking up order if called ahead(10)
  • Teaching(10)
  • Public speaking(10)
  • Public performance(10)
  • Texting sister in law(10)
  • blogging or writing to online friends(10)
  • Anything alone with my kids(10)
  • Sitting/standing on my back porch while dogs are out(10)
  • Going to most dr appts(40)
  • Driving or sitting in my car(20)

 

Situations with some distress, might avoid or need pep talk, rehearsal, recover time:

Situations where the time limit is not predetermined, I may feel trapped, one or more elements are unpredictable, I do not know the ‘correct’ behavior or what to say, I’m unable to physically do the correct behavior due to my health or physical limitations, there are too many variables at once, people may surround me or need to touch me, I may disappoint people.

  • Family or friends gatherings(70): I like to be invited but I nearly instantly think of ways to back out of it, or I do back out of it last minute sometimes making up schedule, health or issues or problems with kids. Except for major holidays with in-laws, I feel obligated and force myself to go.
  • Ordering food at noisy counters(80) (chipotle), but quiet restaurants are fine
  • Calling to make dr appts: I hate committing to the date(50)
  • Telling concerns to Hubby(80): afraid of his reaction, either angry or aloof. Tough to tell him I’m not feeling well especially. Other tough topics include things that need fixed in the house, money issues, schedule updates,
  • Dentist appts(60) I put off until I have many cavities that need filled
  • School functions(60), sports practices, recitals, concerts. I go to most, but avoid if I can, sending Hubby whenever it is ok for me to miss meetings. Concerts I get anxious for days before.
  • If given email or phone, I will always use the email to contact teachers or coaches(70), and only then if absolutely necessary.
  • Texting real friends, even if they text me first(70)
  • Calling sister in law or mother in law(80)
  • Parking in unknown lots for first time, especially in the city, out of town(90)

 

Situations with high distress, avoid if possible

Situations where I feel I have basically no control and everything is unpredictable, I will be triggered and likely experience flashbacks, a high level of conflict, I might be wrong, sensory overload, I could bother people, I will be confused, I won’t agree or like what others do, people know I don’t belong, I could get hurt, my kids could get hurt.

  • A formal complaint (90)(to pharmacy, boss, teacher, neighbor)
  • Ob/gyn:(90) I have not been there in about 7 years now…
  • Lines like post office(80): I have not been to post office in about 15 years
  • Walking around my neighborhood(80), alone, with hubby, with my dogs or kids, it doesn’t matter: I stopped this about 2 years ago
  • PTO/volunteer at school(90): I have never done this even though I’m a teacher and I have time
  • Talking to other parents(90): I avoid this completely, asking Hubby to be our social planner if phone calls are needed. I have actually hidden in my own house when parents knocked on my door if home alone. Kids’ events (other than the final concert) I wait in my car to avoid other parents at dropoff and pickup. I pace around, use my phone, read a book, take a notebook to write in, or work on my laptop so I am busy and unapproachable when forced to be around others.
  • The school bus stop(90): After some ugly incidents with some neighbor girls and their mom last spring, I decided not to have my boys wait at the bus stop in the mornings. I drove them to school this year. I have not seen that mom in 2 years even though she lives a few houses away. After I drop off my kids, I even drive a block over to avoid seeing the crowd gathered at the bus stop on my back home.
  • Attend small town events(80) like the carnival, football games, tailgate parties, christmas celebration, artfest, etc….
  • Spend the day at mother in law’s(80) house, spending the night(100) is even worse
  • Taking kids to a busy playground(80)
  • Calling a friend:I have not done this unless asked to do so at a certain time for a certain reason since my high school friends(90)
  • Having kids’ friends over in my house(80), sleepovers(90) really bad (two friends have made it to the not so bad list, boys(100) have never been allowed to sleepover)
  • Feeling exposed outside(90): too much sun, wind, bugs, heat, cold, bird sounds, dogs barking, cars vrooming, will cause panic and send me back inside quickly.
  • Phone calls or visits with my brothers(90)
  • Working outside of the home(80): I’ve been working from home for 12 years to avoid daily face to face
  • Certain roads(90), buildings are off limits to avoid people or memories

 

Consumed by fear

When did I begin to fear my world more than live in it? I don’t actually know for certain.

I just tried to take a walk outside, around the block in my quiet little town.

The further I got from home, the tighter my skin and muscles felt, the harder it was to keep my breathing slow. We made it down our street to the main street and  I jumped with every passing car as if it were gunshots. The wind in the trees sounded ominous even though it was actually a quiet breeze.

Everything in me wanted to go home. I could hear, see, feel, smell everything a million times too strong. Hypervigilance.

I was wishing hubby would make some conversation to distract me. I was struggling to keep myself grounded.

Then a dog jumped and barked. I screamed. A bloody murder scream. All the tension in me rose up and turned into full panic. I was done. I froze in my tracks. I needed to go home.

Hubby was actually clueless somehow, said something about how peaceful the evening was and he was enjoying the walk. I could barely talk, but said my anxiety was at an 8. Hubby said ohh, wow, he didn’t know, sorry we could be so different.

Again I was wishing hubby would help me. Help me focus, ground, breathe. We walked back home in silence and he says he needs a bath. Which means I’m left to recover alone. And get the kids in bed myself. I was tired from the panic, but also feeling foolish. I did not know I was so afraid to simply go outside. I was fine shopping and at the doctors, so I didn’t know I was afraid to walk on my sidewalk.

I will add this to my list for individual therapy goals, as well as discuss it during couples counseling tomorrow.

Triggered at doctor’s office, panic

Triggered at doctor’s today, it was big one. still coming back down to earth.

Had a good talk with Hubby last night, not feeling angry any more, I think we both recovered from the big fight the other day. That’s a relief.

Because I needed him today. I knew this trip to the dr would be stressful, but I didn’t anticipate just how much. I went to see an allergist for all the hives and swollen tongue from foods I’ve been getting lately. The questionnaire was difficult to fill out at home, and I’;m always tempted to leave off the truth just so I don’t have to discuss it. But I want to feel better, and so I answer questions about my sleep quality and depression history, even though I’m not sure it could be related to food allergies.

First thing nurse says to me is, “I’ve read your history and wow, you’re too young to have all of these problems!”

Really? Thanks. I feel so much better starting off with a dumbass judgmental comment like that.

I find out they don’t have the food allergy tests for anything I have been reacting to, like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes. They have all the usual pollens, grass, molds, dustmites, etc. I ask her is there any benefit to skin testing for specific pollens? We can all see I am reacting, that my nose is swollen and drippy, my eyes are red and itchy and watery, does it matter what it is – or will the treatment be the same.

That nurse looked at me oddly, and said well no, we’ll give you the same treatment no matter which ones you are actually allergic to. So I said if it is my choice, I prefer to be poked and itchy less than more, but I’ll do it if it helps your diagnostics and plan for me. She decided not to do it.

Then they went on and on about how congested my nose is, and I say a hundred times, yes it is, but you made me stop taking claritin for the last 2 weeks so it is much worse than usual. She keeps saying how great the nasal sprays are and I said I can’t use those, I either get headaches or nosebleeds, or the smell and taste is worse than the nasal symptom. They sent me home with 2 rx for nasal sprays.

Then they asked about GERD and heartburn, and I have a huge long history with that, and a treated ulcer, and I’ve been doing fine for a few years now. They are insistent that I have silent GERD and gave me 2 rx for heartburn.

Then they ask about my sleep, and keep digging and digging until I have to say about the PTSD and nightmares and pisspoor sleep quality. She recommended xanax and I said my therapist didn’t want me on anything addictive. I have a rx for xanax.

It was going ok with the nurse, she was quiet and gentle. The sinus xray was ok, I held off the triggers from the xray room and all of my medical trauma, mostly, by deep breathing.

When the doctor came in, I freaked out almost immediately. He had old man pants like my AF used to wear. And he was close talker. He came right in, invaded my space, held my hand way too long, inspecting it after the handshake. He said something about my fair complexion and sat down on the stool in front of me, with his legs so close they wrapped around mine. I was seated against the wall, I could not back up and it took everything in me to simply not die of panic. I wanted to scream at him to move back, but of course I said nothing and he babbled on about nothing new to me and drew diagrams of my nasal passages and made promises to get me feeling not just better, but 100%. I said I didn’t believe that was possible.

And then he picked up the light scope thingy and reached for my ear. And completely creeped me out when stopped way too long, he brushed my hair aside and kinda petted a bit, just staring at it, and saying “my what pretty hair you have”

I nearly vomited. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I stared at the poster on the wall depicting asthma to avoid looking at him and his old man pants. I started counting and intensely reading that poster to keep myself grounded.

Somehow I got through the physical exam, and this guy did not back up. And kept promising me the moon.

The only thing that made sense is that I am likely not allergic to any foods, but I am highly sensitized, we knew that right already, but I didn’t know it was related to sleep quality. So when doctor left, the nurse asked me some more about sleeping, and I explained how I was attacked repeatedly in my sleep and I still have a fear of sleeping. Her eyes got so big, but she didn’t say anything else stupid.Just, “oh, I see”

So here I am, I don’t want all these rxs. And I’m thinking screw it all and I won’t ever go back there. IF my GERD is back, I know how to handle that. I really need to stop eating so damn much at night time and lose this extra weight too. Maybe this is the motivation I need. I’ll do about anything to avoid all these meds. It took me years to recover from having my stomach acid turned off, years of zantac, prilosec, nexxium, protonix, tums, rolaids – ugh I’m not going back there and I don’t want to do that during cold/flu season, we need stomach acid to fight off germs.

At least Hubby responded to my SOS text and called me from work to help calm me while I was crying the van after the doctor. I just needed to release that fear and panic. His call meant a lot to me. I felt so stupid. I know I am safe. I know that doctor isnt going to hurt me, but telling myself that does NOTHING. My body starts responding and all I can do is try to control it and seriously not die. It feels like I am in mortal danger from the nice old doctor knee’s touching my knee.

Now I’m not opposed to taking meds if needed, but I need to try non medical solutions first. I ad no idea that my binge eating could be affecting my allergy and immune system and further reducing my quality of sleep. I’d have to truly hate myself to continue this self harming action, and since I dont hate myself any more I should be able to stop. right?

I so miss my regular therapist. I’d love to run this all by her. I will share with the new one, but I don’t trust her or value her opinion as much. I think she gave me bad advice in not sharing my true feelings right away with Hubby about that massage gift. I should have followed my 3 day rule and told him months ago how I felt. how stupid.

Seasonal Affective Disorder or Seasonal Dysfunctional Family Disorder

I’ve been nearly hibernating for about 2 weeks now. I do this every year, and I have always been diagnosed with SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. I used to take a multitude of antidepressants to help, but it never helped much. I think I’m seeing now some patterns.

I think my responses this time of year are more related to stress than any type of cyclical affect. It starts in the Fall as school starts and my schedule fills up. I have to get up earlier than my body wants to. I am a natural night owl, despite many attempts to change this – mornings do, always will – suck. Then each evening we cram so many to-do’s into a few hours: homework headaches, dinner, extra-curriculars, bathtimes, bedtimes. I know every family handles this, and I’m pretty sure every family feels this same stress.

And then we start Holiday planning. Well, this year I made sure one stress was removed. This was the first year in my 36 years of life that I requested to have Thanksgiving and Christmas without my Father present. I never knew I could ask for that. My family never thought to  do this for me. (Can’t dwell on the ‘why’ of that one) And even though he was not there in person, he was still there in spirit, and I nearly lost my mind after Thanksgiving dinner. I was sent to such a deep dark place I nearly ended my marriage. I felt so unsafe that I even pushed away Hubby. Again. We worked on many issues, made me feel safe again, and Hubby has been back home and generally being wonderful. (Way too much to post here about the marriage – another time)

So the panic attacks prior to Christmas dinner were phenomenal. I nearly did not go. Thankfully Hubby talked me through them. We nearly did not go at all, and made it there at 7pm rather than 2pm as promised.

When we got there, my Mom was visibly annoyed at us being so late, and not knowing the reason, and says “Did you meet ____?”

“No  . . .  who?”

She points to a cheerful, maybe 12 year old girl, then smiles at my nephew David and says, “She’s going to be David’s sister” (David is not his real name, but it made no sense without a name)

————————————

It took me a second, but then I figured it out. This was my brother’s new girlfriend’s daughter. Oh my. I had no idea he was getting so serious with her. A few more conversations with another brother and I find out this new girlfriend has already moved in with my brother. And my Dad. My Dad sold his house and moved into this brother’s house when his wife left him 2 years ago.  With my nephews. My psyhopathic, pedophilic monster of  a father lives with my nephews. Despite my warnings, despite my efforts. My brother insists he has enough control over the situation, that he never allows the boys home alone with my Dad, that it is ok. I had to deal with fact, because I can not change this situation. But hearing that a young girl has now moved into this house too, well that was too much. I felt like I was punched in the stomach and would never take a full breath again.

Photo of an open fortune cookie

Leave it to my Mom to make fortune cookies dysfunctional (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then in comes my Mom, in a deranged effort to make our dinner fun, she brings out fortune cookies, and requests all children (all grandchildren, not her children) to leave the kitchen. She wants us “grownup” kids to play the fortune cookie “in bed” game. (In case you don’t know this game, you read aloud the fortune followed by the phrase ‘in bed’ to make interesting, naughty fortunes) Let alone this is awkward to play with your Mom instead of friends with drinks, it was so awkward to abruptly ask the kids to leave. I should point out that there are 15 grandkids in attendance, so they keep coming in for cookies and drinks and she keeps getting angrier, but that cold, tight-lipped anger, and asks them all to leave the room. Instead I do. I go out to the front porch for a literal cooling down.

Hubby follows me out there, and we talk a bit, and I tell him I want to leave. He asks if he can talk to my brother for me. I say Yes, and so he does. I felt so supported, by at least one person in this craziness. And I focused on playing with the kids – the whole reason I go to these events, to get to see my nieces and nephews. Much later, Hubby and my brother emerge from a bedroom, neither looking too upset. We went back outside, and he told me that the girlfriend knows about the dangers of my Dad, and that they have lots of rules in place. I don’t feel much better, but at least I feel less responsible. I did my duty to warn anyone who comes in contact with this evil man. What they do with the information is out of my control. (I so much want to feel good about that, and let it go, but it is soo, so hard not to worry about those children) My brother thinks my Dad is no longer a physical threat, due to his emphysema, as he can no longer stand, and moves about only with an electric scooter. He actually said he encourages the kids to make crazy wild messes in their rooms, feeling secure that the scooter could not traverse the messy floor and grant access to sleeping children. I of course think this is bullshit. But I have to let it go. I see nothing else I can do. But pray those children remain untouched.

Why? Why does my brother allow this monster to live with him? Is it a sense of obligation? Unresolved guilt? Does he get something from it? I actually wondered if he thought of my Dad as a prisoner, and is getting off on the feeling of controlling him. I just don’t know. I barely talk to my family, and basically only see them for the Holidays.

So this year, my SAD, seems to be SDFD (Seasonal Dysfunctional Family Disorder). (Yes this is my attempt at humor to make the best of a crappy situation) Panic is in full swing. I am having trouble showering (just not thinking of it) every day, and forgetting what I was up to in the middle of tasks. I have been extremely anxious and jumpy. If the kids get too excited and speak too loudly too quickly, it feels like a gunshot in my head. I have had terrible nightmares, nearly every night. They are so gruesome that I avoid going to sleep some nights. I have found myself staying up all night play Sim games instead. It seems if I sleep in 3-4 hour batches, I avoid the nasty scenes. I have panic attacks in my sleep too, unrelated to dreams. I wake up feeling like I am choking.

My vitamin D level is normal now. I have a daylight therapy lamp. I have a weekly dance class. I go outside everytime the sun shines (twice here in the last month-ugh) and try to build a snowman or something with the kids.  I am not suicidal, and not even thinking of giving up. I am not depressed. I am not manic. I am just not me. I am anxious and exhausted. So very tired. I am waiting for my system to return to normal from all that stress. I am trying not to eat everything in sight. Trying. Keeping going.

Hubby is wearing thin, taking on too much again. I am sorry for this, but accepting that it just has to be this way until I recover again. I’m doing what I can. It isn’t fair, but I never promised fair. Just need to control my wicked tongue. I say hurtful things when I don’t feel well about myself. The inner critic turns outward. Sorry Hubby – I truly am, and I will try to be more gentle to all of us, including me.

Christmas in my own house, with my own Hubby and kids was magical, beautiful, and so entirely wonderful. I will hold on to that forever, just hold tight.